The elder brother syndrome and the prodigal son

Last updated: September 23. 2014 1:43PM - 365 Views
By Walter Lofton



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In the fifteenth chapter of St. Luke Jesus told the story of the prodigal son. The word prodigal refers to one who is wasteful or reckless in spending money. Since space is limited in the press I will give a brief synopsis of the story here. You can read it for yourself in Luke 15:11-32.


A man had two grown up sons who would inherit their father’s estate at his death. The younger son grew impatient and asked for his portion early. He was ready to leave home and make a mark for himself in the world. The elder son cared for his father and was willing to stay and work until the unfortunate time to inherit would come.


It didn’t take the younger son long to realize that the world is a very unfriendly place. He had friends (so he thought, as one usually finds out often after it is too late) as long as his money held out. When his money was gone so were his friends(?). The harsh reality of a cold world began to set in. He found himself slopping hogs for a living and envying their daily meals. This brought him to his senses.


He could take it no longer so he decided to return home and apology to his father and humbly (and perhaps shamefully) ask for a servant’s position. He hoped this proposal of a deal to his father would work in order to keep him from starving.


That is the downside of this story. Now the beautiful side begins to immerge. What the young son didn’t realize is that he had a loving father that had longed for his safe return and steadfastly scanned the horizon everyday hoping to get a glimpse of him coming down the road toward home.


When the father saw him coming he ran toward him and fell on him with a loving embrace, welcoming him home before the boy could get his full story out of his mouth. The father had put a calf up to fatten to celebrate this special occasion, which he believed by faith would one day happen. In my minds eye, I can see the forlorn old man securing the calf in the stall as soon as his young son was out of sight on the day he left home.


He sent and called the elder brother to come in out of the fields to help celebrate the home-coming of his brother, of whom the father said, “ my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”


The lessons for us in this story are many-fold. The father was willing to let his sons be themselves, even knowing that they would probably make grave mistakes with their lives. The younger son proved this to the fullest. Not all of mankind is reckless and evil. The elder son stayed home and was faithful to his father. The world is cruel and is an unsafe place in which to be. The father’s house represented a safe oasis in this cruel dark world. When the prodigal realized there was no other place to go to escape his dilemma he was ready to return home but with a changed heart. The elder brother upon seeing what was happening began to show a resentful attitude. The loving father had to reassure him that nothing had changed between the two of them, his love and concern for both of his sons was still well and strong.


All of the above mentioned points are true between God and His creation. God so loved the world (you and I) that He gave His best; His only Son to save us from a life of ruin that we brought upon ourselves. When God is so forgiving, why can’t we be a little more understanding and forgiving toward each other as God was to us?


Many Christians (?) today would rather “crucify” someone who has made a mistake than forgive them. The elder son represents this side of our society. What is sad is that many don’t realize, or has forgotten, that God’s Word says: “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15). To be forgiven, we must first learn to forgive others.


Many a “prodigal” son or daughter are out there somewhere today in this cold, cruel world waiting on and hoping for someone to come to them with the same love that the father in Christ’s story had for his lost son.


Christian friend, will you search your heart to see if you have this kind of love for the lost who are all around you? You may say they don’t deserve it. (And you may be right.) But, did you deserve God’s love for you when you were lost? Maybe not, but that is the kind of God we love and serve; one that loves us, not because we deserve it, but in spite of the fact that no one does nor ever has.


Will you draw close to God and ask Him to give you a heart of love and forgiveness? Then will you reach out to those who need saving and help make it easy for them to come back home to the Heavenly Father? Someone did that for you one day. Now, it is time for you to go and do likewise. Will you?


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